President Obama to give speech on Mideast policy

President Obama is planning to speak in the “near future” on U.S. policy in the Mideast, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

“It’s a speech to a broader audience than just the Arab world,” Carney said at his televised briefing. He didn’t specify when or where the president will speak, but said it will be in “the relatively near future.”

Obama is scheduled to begin a five-day European trip May 23.

The speech will come as the United States faces a slew of issues in the Middle East, including pro-democracy uprisings in several countries, a stalled Mideast peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and the ongoing issue of nuclear proliferation and Iran.

The speech also will come within weeks of the U.S. raid in Pakistan during which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed. The raid has raised questions from some about the future of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, which the West invaded seeking to end the Taliban state that was sheltering terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The raid has also raised questions about what Pakistan leaders knew about Bin Laden and whether the founder of Al Qaeda was being protected by elements of the Pakistani intelligence community.


Obama is scheduled to meet next week with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a strong U.S. ally, and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been invited to address Congress. Efforts to bring peace between Netanyahu’s government and the Palestinians have bogged down despite early U.S. efforts. Complicating that issue is the apparent reconciliation between Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian National Authority, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, the other part of the Palestinian entity. Israel and the United States view Hamas as a terrorist group.

In 2009, Obama visited Cairo in what was billed as an overture to the Islamic world, still smarting from the Bush years and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama mainly spoke of the positive power of Islam as a world force.

Since then, much of the Arab world has been shattered by ongoing pro-democracy revolutions and, in some cases, civil wars and extensive state repression.

In some countries, notably Syria and Libya, where the United States has had long-term questions about the rulers, the United States strongly condemned the use of force against citizens and took even more severe actions. The Obama administration helped engineer a United Nations resolution that has imposed a no-fly zone on Libya, which is being enforced by NATO. The Obama administration has also spoken out forcefully against Syria’s violence against its citizens.

Though it has condemned state violence, the Obama administration has been less forceful with some nations with friendlier governments, such as Yemen and Bahrain, and it was slow to condemn Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who was eventually deposed by the military after extensive demonstrations.